With the recent release of iOS 14, Apple enabled a new feature called “App Privacy” (or what they call Privacy Nutrition Labels) in the App Store, which supposedly shows users what information apps collect, and how it’s used. For example, the Facebook app’s extremely long App Privacy section, which details all the information they collect, is already the subject of viral tweets.

Most people are already aware that Facebook has terrible privacy practices, but Apple still deserves a lot of credit for exposing Facebook so publicly on their official platform. Raising awareness about privacy is terrific, and this is definitely the right direction. So what’s the catch?

The problem with Apple’s App Privacy is that it’s entirely self-reported. The app developer gets to make whatever privacy claims they want, and none of that information is vetted. There’s no verification by Apple or by any other source.

App Privacy is not new. It’s rebranding and simplification of the Privacy Policy, aka the “We Pinky-Promise to Not Steal Your Data” document. Unfortunately, App Privacy doesn’t fix the Privacy Policy’s inherent and critical flaw: Privacy Policies contain no proof of the privacy claims they make.

Apple doesn’t verify any of the App Privacy information that app developers submit—because they can’t. There is currently no way for Apple to know what an app does with user data after the data is sent to the app. But by calling it equivalent to “Privacy Nutrition Labels,” Apple irresponsibly implies that this privacy information is vetted, when that is absolutely false.

This results in two unintended consequences: it creates a false sense of security for users, and an incentive for more dishonest and privacy-invasive apps in the App Store……

Johnny Lin is the cofounder of Lockdown Privacy, a popular app for blocking trackers. A version of this story was originally published on his Transparency Matters blog

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